Larry Bird Recalls Defying Doctor’s Orders After Suffering Playoff Concussion

Larry Bird

Getty Larry Bird recently talked about suffering a concussion during a 1991 playoff game and returning against doctor's orders.

Reggie Miller remembers the exact time it happened. The “it” was Larry Bird emerging from the Boston Celtics tunnel on May 5, 1991, during Game 5 of the first round of the playoffs against Miller’s Indiana Pacers.

Earlier in the game, Bird smashed his head against the parquet floor while diving for a loose ball. He went to the locker room with 4:30 left in the second quarter and his team holding a 48-46 lead. With the best-of-five series tied at two games apiece, the Pacers had their chance to pull off the upset. That is, until Bird, against doctor’s orders, returned to the court with 6:46 left in the third quarter.

Larry Bird Said He Suffered a Concussion Against the Pacers in the 1991 Playoffs

It didn’t matter if Bird was aging, injured, and at the end of his career. He always gave it his all. That was never more evident in that Game 5 against the Pacers.

A woozy Bird, already plagued by back pain, headed to the locker room after slamming his head to the floor. The team doctor told him his night was over.

“I had a concussion at halftime,” Bird said during All-Star Weekend in a talk with Miller and Isiah Thomas on “NBA on TNT.” “The doctor said, ‘You had enough. You can’t go back out there. Enough’s enough Larry.’

“I looked up and the crowd — you can hear it in there. You knew it wasn’t going good. I go what’s the score, and they said we’re down. I went to doc and said I gotta try this.”

“Start the third, no Larry,” Miller said. “A couple minutes go by, no Larry. We’re looking at each other like, ‘We’re going to do this. We’re going to beat the Celtics in the Garden. No one ever beats the Celtics in the Garden.'”

To This Day, Miller Remembers Exactly When Bird Returned

When Bird emerged from the tunnel with 6:46 left in the third quarter, the Garden crowd roared. Miller and the Pacers had a feeling they might be in trouble.

“Six forty-six, I remember it to this day,” Miller said. “It felt like a train in the middle of old Boston Garden. That’s how loud (the crowd) was. The crowd was so loud, and I remember looking at Chuck (Person), and we said to ourselves, ‘Oh s***.'”

Bird scored 12 points in the third quarter alone. He finished with 32 in a 124-121 series-clinching victory.

“He goes on to score 12 points in those six minutes and the Celtics go on a 33-14 run and they go on to beat us in Game 5,” Miller said. “You (looking at Bird) put on an unbelievable performance.”

After the game, Bird admitted there wasn’t a doubt in his mind that he was going to return to the floor.

“They were pumped up, and I wasn’t going to let them down,” Bird said of the fans during his postgame press conference, per United Press International. “I was coming back no matter what.”

Although the Celtics won the series, they fell to Thomas and the Detroit Pistons in six games in the conference semifinals.

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